While hearing aids improve communication abilities tremendously, they do not result in ‘normal’ hearing. Regardless of whether someone has top-of-the-line hearing aids or the best assistive technology, individuals with hearing loss will still have a certain degree of difficulty in challenging listening environments. In fact, even those with normal hearing often experience some difficulty understanding in challenging listening environments! This is why it is so important not to rely solely on hearing technology. Using some basic communication strategies along with your hearing technology will give you the best possible access to your world. Here are some helpful strategies that you can start using today!
Take advantage of visual cues and speech reading. Most of us do not realize the extent to which we subconsciously utilize speech reading until these cues are compromised. It’s very important to ensure you have good lighting and that you are facing the person with whom you are speaking whenever possible.
Reduce distance. Ideally, communication should happen at a distance of no more than 5 feet. Save yourself the hassle and not try to communicate from another room! This violates the distance rule and reduces our ability to speech read.
Alter your seating arrangement. If you are at theatre, restaurant, or at a concert, do not be afraid to request special seating. This may mean sitting close to the front of a stage at a theatre or concert but restaurants can be tricky. Most people assume that choosing a seat in a corner is the best option. While sitting in a quiet corner may help, if you wear hearing aids, sitting with your back to the noise is key. Today’s hearing technology assumes that we face what we want to hear. They zoom-in on sounds directly in front of us and reduce unwanted noise behind us. Therefore, sitting with your back to the noise will give you the best possible performance.
Rephrase instead of repeat. Often times, simply saying ‘what’ or ‘can you repeat that’ will result in the person saying the exact same thing in the exact same way. However, if you missed it once, chances are you’ll miss it again if the sounds in the sentence are tricky sounds for your ears to distinguish! Ask the speaker to rephrase instead of simply repeating and you’ll have a better chance of catching the message.
Don’t ‘bluff’. Although it may be tempting to ‘smile & nod’ your way through a conversation after you’ve already asked someone to repeat something, you’re not doing yourself any favours by pretending to hear– if anything it can get you in trouble if you respond inappropriately!
Reduce background noise. Whenever possible, turn down competing noise in the background. This doesn’t only apply when you’re at home– don’t be afraid to ask management in public places to turn down the music or other noises if it means it will help you hear better!
Self identify as an individual with hearing loss! Do not be afraid to advocate for yourself and inform others that you have difficulty with your hearing. This will result in the speaker being more understanding and accommodating for your needs.
Have a ‘listening buddy’. Although we encourage independence and advocating for yourself, it can help to have a family member or friend as an extra set of ears when necessary. It is also important that you have a support group and educate those close to you about your hearing and how they can help.
Be patient. Remember that while it is frustrating to miss out on what is being said, it is also frustrating for those who are communicating with you. If you want someone to be patient and understanding with you, be sure to be patient and understanding with them!